BUFFALO -- Center Jack Eichel will not begin the season with the Buffalo Sabres after injuring his ankle on Wednesday.
Eichel, Buffalo's leading goal scorer last season, sustained a high ankle sprain during a power play drill at practice. Eichel got tangled up with teammate Zemgus Girgensons and appeared to catch his skate in the ice. Eichel rolled his leg underneath him as he fell backward to the ice. He immediately screamed out in pain and needed help from his teammates to get off the ice.
Video: Sabres coach Bylsma updates Eichel injury
The Sabres did not give a timetable for Eichel's return, but TSN reported he could miss 4-6 weeks.
"I saw it live and I've seen it on video," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "He's just by himself, he lifts up Zemgus' stick and he plants his foot to go the other way and it kind of goes underneath him. It's not any kind of battle or any kind of contact with anybody. He just lifts up Zemgus' stick and he's a right hand shot and he turns here and that's where you see his ankle go out.
"He has an ankle injury and at this point, not a lot to tell after that. He's going to get evaluated this afternoon. Initially he goes down in a lot of pain, obviously, and I think the initial shock of it is you see that, but we're going to let it calm down here and get evaluated and see the extent of him turning his ankle there."
Eichel, 19, led the Sabres with 24 goals last season, his first in the NHL. The second pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, Eichel is being counted on to help the Sabres attempt to return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2010-11.
"He's a huge piece of the team, and it's unfortunate right before the regular season kicks off," Sabres forward Marcus Foligno said. "You want to start off on the right foot, hoping everyone's healthy and then you just get kind of a setback. Again, we don't know what has happened or how severe it is, but you just never want to see that happen to anyone, especially Jack."
The Sabres already had injury issues heading into their season opener against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday (7 p.m. ET, SN360, MSG-B, RDS). Newly acquired right wing Kyle Okposo is out with a bruised knee and center Ryan O'Reilly, who left the Kraft Hockeyville game against the Carolina Hurricanes on Oct. 4 with a lower-body injury, returned to full practice on Wednesday.
"I typically don't have nightmares at home," Bylsma said, "but I guess we've seen it a couple times this preseason with some injuries that have happened to Kyle, with Ryan, and with Jack today, where, yeah, you're looking at one of your best players, your key players, going down in pain on the ice.
"It's not a good thing."
Defensemen Dmitry Kulikov (bruised tailbone) and Zach Bogosian (groin) also missed time during training camp with separate injuries. Kulikov and Bogosian returned to practice on Tuesday. The Sabres won't have Okposo in the lineup against Montreal and now they may also be without Eichel.
"If we are going with the assumption that Jack got injured today, it's a little bit different, it seems like on the eve of starting the season," Bylsma said. "Last year, Ryan O'Reilly was out for 10 games or so in the middle of the season, he's an important player to our team, but your team is in the middle of the season and you deal with it. This feels a little bit different because it's the cusp and the eve of starting a new season, one we are all looking forward to, and I think that's why it takes the wind out of the sails of the arena today.
"We [were] 10 minutes away, maybe less than that, maybe eight minutes away from practice being over and getting ready for a game tomorrow and that happens and takes a little bit of a chunk out of the team. It's one we are going to have to deal with, whatever the extent of the situation is. Our team is not just Jack Eichel, it's not just Ryan O'Reilly, it's not just one player. You expect to have to deal with injuries throughout the year."